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DreamWorks’ The Croods opened in first place at the U.S. box office with $43.6 million. That is almost the exact same opening as Chris Sanders’ last film, How to Train Your Dragon, which opened with $43.7 million in 2010. It is also much stronger than the studio’s last film, Rise of the Guardians, which earned $23.8 million during its opening weekend last November. The Croods netted an additional $62.6 million from its foreign debut. Russia, which as we’ve established is crazy for DreamWorks animation, was the film’s top foreign market and generated $12.9 million in box office earnings.
In other box office news, The Weinstein Company’s Escape from Planet Earth is winding down its theatrical run. It grossed $477,522 in its sixth frame, upping its total to $53.4 million. GKIDS expanded Goro Miyazaki’s From Up on Poppy Hill into 6 theaters and grossed $59,693. The film’s two-week U.S. total stands at $131,927.
Nearly 600 people took our Croods box office poll which asked readers to guess how much the film would earn during its opening weekend. The correct choice—$42-44 mil—was the sixth most popular answer, guessed by 7.35% of readers. Here were the top five guesses:
10.93% of readers guessed $38-40 mil
10.04% of readers guessed $40-42 mil
9.5% of readers guessed under $25 million
8.78% of readers guessed $36-38 mil
7.53% of readers guessed $30-32 mil
Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco’s The Croods opens todsay in the United States as well as over 45 other countries. Critics haven’t been particularly kind, and the film has a mild 61% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Typical reviews include Richard Corliss in Time who complained that, “The family-dramedy genre that the film inhabits demands a bit more narrative ingenuity than is on display,” and Leslie Felperin in Variety who wrote that the film “adopts a relatively primitive approach to storytelling with its Flintstonian construction of stock, ill-fitting narrative elements.”
The good news is that mainstream audiences seems to disagree with the critics. They’ve given The Croods a robust 87% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
So who do you agree with? Check out the film and report back here with your opinion in the comments below. As usual, the talkback is open only to those who have actually seen the film and should be about your opinion of the film.
This week we’ll take a look at the work of artists who were part of the production crew of The Croods, which will be released in theaters this Friday, March 22nd. If there’s any downside to focusing on the artists of Croods, it’s that there are countless more impressive artists on the film’s crew who are equally worthy of being featured here.
For starters, one of the crew members with a substantial web presence happens to be Chris Sanders, the co-director of the film. Although the gallery and comics section of his website (Chris creates a strip called Kiskaloo) are currently empty and being refreshed at some point in the future, Chris’s work can still be seen throughout his website’s blog, deviantART and Twitter.
Chris’s drawings of humans and creatures tend to have a distinctive facial/eye design and proportions that are strongly identifiable as his own. His style was particularly on display in his first feature, Disney’s Lilo & Stitch.
There is also a generous amount of storyboard drawings from The Croods that Chris has posted on his blog in its own category.
On Friday, DreamWorks Animation will release Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco’s The Croods, the company’s 26th feature. It will also be the first one released under their new distribution deal with Fox.
Box Office Guru is playing it conservative and predicting the film will open with a $39 million weekend. Box Office Mojo forecasts the film will earn between $40-44 million. Variety says the film is tracking north of $40 million, and even has a shot of reaching Wreck-It Ralph’s $49 million opening weekend. Not in question is that the film will be huge internationally. It opens day-and-date in over 45 countries tomorrow, and predictions are in the $300 million range for overseas opening weekend.
Now, it’s your turn. We are going to find out if the collective knowledge of the animation community can accurately predict an animated film’s opening weekend. The survey below will remain open through Saturday evening. Read up on the links above, and then make your best guess for how much The Croods will gross on its US opening weekend.
We can’t seem to get over our obsession with the caveman, who has appeared on screen since at least 1912. In fact, anthropologist Judith Berman has written that a new caveman character has been introduced into pop culture every year since World War II.
DreamWorks’ The Croods, directed by Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco, presents the most recent version of prehistoric man; Grug, is a responsible father facing such dad-like issues as a teenage daughter who just wants to be her own person. He transcends the behavior expected of a typical caveman, but his character design doesn’t evolve past a stereotype that is largely of our own making.
We’ve distilled an entire subspecies of human down to a single iconic image, one that is perpetuated year after year through film, animation, comic art and bad Halloween costumes. The caveman is always brutish, dressed in some type of fur loin cloth and possessing limited intelligence. Some stereotypes of prehistoric humans are certainly based on archeological facts: the structure of the skull, anatomical proportions and pelt-based wardrobe. But other stereotypes, such as wielding clubs, communing with dinosaurs and pulling women by the hair, are our own projections of prehistoric behavior.
The iconic caveman image we know today was already established by the 1930s, seen in the comic strip Alley Oop. He carried a stone axe, manhandled women and rode a dinosaur named Dinny. Alley Oop, along with the Fleischer’s Stone Age Cartoonsseries, was a response to western society grappling with what it meant to be modern. The simple world of the caveman was a nostalgic comfort to those who feared progress.
Alley Oop was the pop culture bookend of a caveman fiction trend that began in the 19th century. One of the earliest examples is Paris Before Man, a novel written by Pierre Boitard in 1861. The frontispiece print (above) shows a club-wielding caveman, protecting his mate. As the genre developed, the caveman became more brutish and ill-mannered—an 1886 short story written by Andrew Lang describes a marriage custom in which women are “knocked on the head and dragged home.” By the 1920s, numerous newspaper headlines used “caveman” and “neanderthal” as adjectives to describe senseless male brutality.
The mid-century resurgence of cavemen in film (The Neanderthal Man, Monster on Campus), comics (B.C.) and television (The Flintstones) can partly be blamed on World War II rhetoric. Newscasters sang the praises of atomic power while warning of its devastating potential to send us back to a new Stone Age. To help us deal with these fears, the caveman was domesticated; The Flintstones showed that, even as the worst case scenario, the Stone Age wasn’t so bad. Even cavemen could wear neckties and accomplish an honest day’s work.
Over time, films and TV shows have moved away from the wife-clubbing caveman of the 19th century to fit G-rated expectations of civilized society. In fact, The Croods has pushed the caveman to the opposite end of the spectrum, with a father figure that seems like he could handle modern-day discussions of co-parenting and all-terrain strollers. No longer a commentary on uncivilized man or our fears of the future, the caveman and his era presented in The Croods is merely a backdrop ideal for contrasting our modern reality of iPods and WiFi.
Brew reader “Test Pilot” was looking through his copy of The Illusion of Life when he stumbled onto some Xeroxes circa 1989 tucked inside of the book. The story and artwork, posted in its entirety on this blog is by Chris Sanders, director of Lilo & Stitch and How To Train Your Dragon. It’s called The Big Bear Aircraft Company, and of course, the drawings ooze with typical Sanders appeal.
But this isn’t any normal story concept. The sub-title is “A Book for the Big Retreat.” And the story is an allegorical tale about the animation industry. The message is loud and clear: a management-heavy, writer-driven animation studio will be doomed to produce safe and unoriginal animated films. His devastating takedown of writers is notable; he doesn’t even bother extending a metaphor to them and bluntly depicts their uselessness in his story’s setting, which is an aircraft factory:
The writer likes airplanes; he saw one on TV once. He has actually never worked on one before, and couldn’t tell you for sure what makes one fly. But now he’s got the idea, and is hammering away at an incredible rate. . . . Without the visual engineer’s guidance, the writer is guaranteed of making the same mistake every time. He will make his airplane look like every one he’s seen before, and he will power it with a plot and dialogue engine, the biggest and heaviest he can find.
The document raises a number of fascinating questions that perhaps Chris or someone else familiar with the document’s origin can answer. For example, what retreat was this created for, who saw the document originally, have Chris’s views changed or evolved in the past couple decades, and most importantly, did anybody listen to Chris’s passionate plea to trust the artists?
Golly, I never thought I’d see that thing on the internet. I really wish I could re-do those drawings right about now.
I read some of the comments earlier, and I think I can provide some perspective as to what I was up to, and what was happening at the time I wrote this.
It was created for a Disney offsite. I wasn’t invited to the retreat, but anyone could write their thoughts down and submit them, and they would be copied and bound into a folder that would accompany the attendees. The hope being that all this stuff would be read carefully and thoughtfully and then discussed by the attendees at the retreat.
I wanted to submit some thoughts of my own, but from the size of some of the notes being submitted by my fellow artists, I thought it was unlikely anyone would really read all that material. We’re talking dozens if not hundreds of pages of thoughts/complaints/suggestions in that folder.
So I decided to submit mine in the form of this little picture book – so it might stand out. I’m not sure if it worked, but if someone found a copy of it twenty years later, at least one person must have read it.
Anyone who read the story would see that I wasn’t a proponent of the removal of writers from the development process. But I was focusing on the quantity of writers, the quality of the writers, and the unwillingness of writers to partner with the artists they worked so near. And, I would say, the artists they needed to make their material work. In feature animation a great deal of the finished film, if not the bulk of it, is written by the story crew. And I mean entire scenes, not the occasional gag that is transcribed back into a script. As head of story on Mulan, I received a writing credit for that very reason.
The other thing I was concerned about was the ever-growing complexity of our films, and what I saw as an emerging pattern they were all cut from. A lot of our films fell into a well-worn groove. Different characters, but similar roles. It didn’t seem like we could get away with that forever. I felt we could be more inventive. I felt that a film with a smaller crew and lower budget could be successful.
While the story crew was debating how we would kill the villain at the end of Mulan, we began reflecting on how strange it was that we spent so much time trying to find fresh ways to kill characters in Disney films. In Mulan we (the story crew) came up with the idea that the villain could be blown to bits by fireworks, rather than falling to his death as was written in the script. A lot of those villains fall at the end of Disney films. Some get stabbed first, but a whole lot of them fall. There was almost always a death at the end of our movies. It was one of those patterns I worried about.
That’s where Lilo and Stitch came from. At its base, Lilo and Stitch is a story about a villain who becomes a hero. A redemption story. A story that diverged from the pattern.
At the time I wrote that document, the suggestion that Disney could be surpassed by another studio seemed outrageous. Impossible. But a studio or company that feels secure, is slow to innovate and has trouble with self-examination can certainly be surpassed by something fresh, small, and fast.
Anyway, that’s where the little story book came from. To my surprise, it made the rounds. In the years that followed I got the occasional call from people at other companies that asked if they could use it for a presentation. I guess it was vague enoug
A few thousand copies of this Croods print drawn by Chris Sanders and painted by Arthur Fong were handed out at Comic-Con last week. The charm and vitality of Sanders’ sinuous line artwork will inevitably be lost in the transition to CGI so enjoy this little taste of what the film could have been. (Click on the image for a bigger version.)
Already one the most anticipated animated features coming in 2013, Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco’s The Croods keeps looking better and better with each new tease. Dreamworks’ released the first poster today (below) and its gorgeous. It’s also the first of their 20th Century-Fox releases – note the logo bottom right.
In case you want to see what the characters faces actually look like, here’s the cover to Noela Hueso’s Art Of The Croods which Titan Books will release in February. (I’ve already pre-ordered mine).
Director Chris Sanders (How To Train Your Dragon) is posting while in post-production on The Croods. He’s letting us see some of his deleted boards, of scenes that were cut or altered, on his new Dreamworks film. Sanders art is magnificent – his storytelling is superb. Head on over to Chris Sanders’ blog now and check it out!